Texas Longhorns spring practice player availability, practice notes

Ashley! - Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE

Vince Young has a new nickname for the Texas starting quarterback.

Introducing the new Texas quarterback -- Ashley

Throughout the first part of spring practice, there's been quite a bit made about the presence of Vince Young around the team, taking pictures with recruits and scolding the quarterbacks for not putting in extra work with the receivers.

Turns out, VY has also come up with a nickname for starter David Ash:

Young apparently thinks it's funny.

Fortunately, the Texas legend also has some constructive advice for his young protege, according to Ash:

I see him around. He is really good about telling me something he did when he played that can help team chemistry. Being visible to your teammates, setting a good example with your work ethic. Just building those relationships that go deeper than X's and O's. In crunch time, care about the guy next to you, and do whatever you can to help the team win.

In other breaking "Ashley" news, the now-entrenched starter called it a "relief" to receive the declaration from Mack Brown that he's the "clear-cut starter" now for the 'Horns after his multiple benchings last season.

Always highly self-aware, Ash also had a relatively long list of areas in which he wants to improve this spring:

I want to have better footwork. Better timing. I want to be better at anticipating. I want to be a better runner. I want to be more encouraging of my teammates and be more vocal.

That's quite the laundry list of areas for improvement. Unfortunately, there won't be much of an opportunity to see how much Ash has improved as a runner because the spring game won't feature live tackling of the quarterbacks, but it will be interesting to watch his timing and anticipation, two areas that improved as the season went along, particularly in when to release his deep ball, but could still get better this spring.

The Belton product believes he is getting better in the areas related to his decision making:

Part of that is me being older and part of that is the coaches teaching me. I am learning where to go with the ball quicker, which makes me more confident with my reads.

Defensive tackle Chris Whaley told the media that he's seeing a more confident Ash this spring:

He's confident. He is coming out and playing and running the offense like a leader. That's what we need. He never really said much, but now he is stepping up and being a leader.

Having to run the up-tempo offense seems to be helping Ash because he has to be more vocal to make sure that his teammates are aligned correctly and at the line of scrimmage quickly to get plays off. Offensive guard Mason Walters agrees:

I think he is doing a great job so far this spring. He is really stepping up in that management position of the fast-pace offense, and that is important. You have to have guys in the right spots to run the plays and make sure they are effective. Doing it at a high rate of speed gives you an advantage over the defense. David is coming into his own more and more.

Diaz now more demanding, practices more physical

Whaley also indicated that the change this spring with defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is that he is "more demanding" with his players, stressing a higher level of accountability. Now in his third spring at Texas, the much-maligned coordinator is coaching for his job, so it was hardly a surprise to see him throwing his hat multiple times on Friday as the Longhorn linebackers continued to miss their run fits.

It's a common rite of spring, but safety Adrian Phillips says that there is a higher level of accountability this time around:

Just holding everyone accountable. We are making sure that no one is getting a step out as far as running to the ball, gap control and knowing your assignment in the meeting room before we get on the field.

Phillips also notably confirmed what Diaz appeared to be doing in practice -- making sure that the defense is more gap sound next season than it was in 2012, a major reason why there were so many gaping running lanes for opponents to saunter through.

The other area of emphasis is physicality, as also evidenced by the work on Friday, which included plenty of individual drills though Saturday's workout also included one-on-one drills for the trench players, according to Whaley:

There's a lot of one-on-one drills. There's competition every day. We have to be physical on defense to be a great defense. You have to come out everyday ready to win. Nobody has a set position, so you have to come out everyday and fight for that position.

Practice report from the Asset

There's no question that the best practice reports for the Longhorns come from Inside Texas. The report from Tuesday's practice is free, so here are a couple of excerpts.

Some bad news first:

The bad news of the day occurred when Tevin Jackson went down with what looked to be a painful injury. Our source says it looked like he fractured a collar bone on a violent tackle which sucks because this unit can't afford that type of injury with Hicks already being held out.

Talk of a broken collarbone is highly speculative right now and as time moves on, the odds that Jackson did suffer that type of serious injury decrease significantly because the school would have released that information if it was indeed that bad.

Since the Longhorns will head off for spring break at the end of the week, the time isn't necessarily terrible if Jackson can get healthy during the break and come back for the last several practices of the spring because he's still considered a raw player and badly needs any and all reps that he can get.

One of the more interesting position battles going on this spring is in the defensive secondary, where players like Josh Turner and Mykkele Thompson are battling for the starting role opened up by the departure of Kenny Vaccaro and reportedly are neck-and-neck.

The battle for the back-up spots may be just as interesting:

The surprises of the day in the secondary may be the second team defensive backfield. Sheroid Evans, Bryson Echols, and Adrian Colbert helped give the second team offense fits in the passing game according to our source. "If you took the names off the back of the jerseys, I'm not convinced that Evans and Colbert aren't worthy of starter snaps. They look that good. I'm also not sure you can keep Echols out of the mix based on his performance today."

Certainly good news for the Longhorns as they seek to establish quality depth across the board.

Other intriguing news includes a strong workout from defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, who is still scratching the surface of his prodigious potential:

Hassan Ridgeway decided to show up and play today. He got off blocks and knifed to ball carriers in scrimmage work which is the first time he's done that in a week. He had good plays against the first team as well as two sacks against the second team OL which should have the ISU's of the world worried. If his motor shows up he's the second most talented DT on the squad.

Ridgeway will continue to be a player to watch at the spring game.

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